The Rise of the Machines – Why Automation is Different this Time

How long do
you think it will take before machines do your
job better than you do? Automation used to mean big stupid machines
doing repetitive work in factories. Today they can land aircraft,
diagnose cancer and trade stocks. We are entering a new age of automation
unlike anything that’s come before. According to a 2013 study,
almost half of all jobs in the US could potentially be automated
in the next two decades. But wait; Hasn’t automation
been around for decades? What’s different this time? Things used to be simple. Innovation made human work
easier and productivity rose. Which means that more staff
or services could be produced per hour using the same
amount of human workers. This eliminated many jobs, but also
created other jobs that were better which was important because the
growing population needed work. So, in a nutshell, innovation,
higher productivity, fewer old jobs, and many
new and often better jobs. Overall, this worked well for a majority
of people and living standards improved. There’s a clear progression in
terms of what humans did for a living. For the longest time,
we worked in agriculture. With the Industrial Revolution, this
shift into production jobs and as automation became more widespread,
humans shifted into service jobs. And then only a few moments ago in human
history, the Information Age happened. Suddenly, the rules were different.
Our jobs are now being taken over by machines much faster
than they were in the past. That’s worrying of course… but
innovation will clearly save us, right? While new information age
industries are booming, they are creating fewer
and fewer new jobs. In 1979, General Motors
employed more than 800,000 workers and made about
$11 billion US dollars. In 2012, Google made about $14 billion US
dollars while employing 58,000 people. You may not like this
comparison, but Google is an example of what created
new jobs in the past: Innovative new industries. Old innovative industries are running
out of steam. Just look at cars. When they became a thing 100 years
ago, they created huge industries. Cars transformed our way of life,
our infrastructure, and our cities. Millions of people found jobs
either directly or indirectly. Decades of investment
kept this momentum going. Today, this process is largely complete.
Innovation in the car industry does not create
as many jobs as it used to. While electric cars are great and all,
they won’t create millions of new jobs. But wait; what about the internet? Some technologists argue
that the Internet is an innovation on a par of the
introduction of electricity. If we go with this
comparison, we see how our modern innovation differs
from the old one. The Internet created
new industries, but they’re not creating
enough jobs to keep up with population growth or to compensate for
the industries the Internet is killing. At its peak in 2004, Blockbuster had 84,000 employees and
made $6 billion US dollars in revenue. In 2016, Netflix had 4,500 employees and
made $9 billion dollars in revenue. Or take us, for example. With a full-time team of just 12 people,
Kurzgesagt reaches millions of people. A TV station with the same amount
of viewers needs way more employees. Innovation in the Information
Age doesn’t equate to the creation of enough new
jobs, which would be bad enough on its own but now, a
new wave of automation and a new generation of machines
is slowly taking over. To understand this, we need to
understand ourselves first. Human progress is based
on the division of labor. As we advanced over thousands of years,
our jobs became more and more specialized. While even our smartest machines
are bad at doing complicated jobs, they are extremely good at doing narrowly defined and predictable tasks. This is what destroyed factory jobs. But look at a complex job
long and hard enough, and you’ll find that it’s
really just many narrowly defined and predictable
tasks one after another. Machines are on the brink
of becoming so good at breaking down complex jobs
into many predictable ones, that for a lot of people, there will be
no further room to specialize. We are on the verge of being outcompeted. Digital machines do this
via machine learning, which enables them to acquire
information and skills by analyzing data. This makes them become better at something
through the relationships they discover. Machines teach themselves. We make this possible by
giving a computer a lot of data about the thing we
wanted to become better at. Show a machine
all the things you bought online, and it will slowly learn what to recommend
to you, so you buy more things. Machine learning is now meeting more
of its potential because in recent years, humans have started to
gather data about everything. Behavior, weather patterns, medical
records, communication systems, travel data, and of course,
data about what we do at work. What we’ve created by accident
is a huge library machines can use to learn how humans do things
and learn to do them better. These digital machines might
be the biggest job killer of all. They can be replicated
instantly and for free. When they improve, you
don’t need to invest in big metal things; you can
just use the new code. And they have the ability to
get better fast. How fast? If your work involves complex work on
a computer today, you might be out of work even sooner than the people
who still have jobs in factories. There are actual real-world examples of
how this transition might be happening. A San Francisco company offers a
project management software for big corporations, which is supposed to
eliminate middle management positions. When it’s hired for a new project, the
software first decides which jobs can be automated and precisely where
it needs actual professional humans. It then helps assemble a team of
freelancers over the Internet. The software then distributes tasks to
the humans, and controls the quality of the work, tracking individual
performance until the project is complete. Okay. This doesn’t sound too bad. While this machine is killing one job,
it creates jobs for freelancers, right? Well, as the freelancers
complete their tasks, learning algorithms track
them, and gather data about their work, and which
tasks it consists of. So what’s actually happening, is that the freelancers are teaching
a machine how to replace them. On average, this software
reduces costs by about 50% in the first year, and by
another 25% in the second year. This is only one example of many. There are machines and
programs getting as good or better than humans
in all kinds of fields. From pharmacists to analysts,
journalists to radiologists, cashiers to bank tellers, or the
unskilled worker flipping burgers. All of these jobs won’t
disappear overnight, but fewer and fewer humans
will be doing them. We’ll discuss a few cases
in a follow-up video. But while jobs disappearing is
bad, it’s only half of the story. It’s not enough to
substitute old jobs with new ones. We need to be generating
new jobs constantly because the world
population is growing. In the past we have solved
this through innovation. But, since 1973, the generation of new
jobs in the US has begun to shrink. And the first decade of the 21st
century, was the first one, where the total amount of jobs in the US,
did not grow for the first time. In a country that needs to create
up to 150,000 new jobs per month, just to keep up with
population growth, this is bad news. This is also starting to
affect standards of living. In the past, it was seen as
obvious that with rising productivity, more and better
jobs would be created. But the numbers
tell a different story. In 1998, US workers worked
a total of 194 billion hours. Over the course of the next 15 years,
their output increased by 42 percent. But in 2013, the amount of hours worked
by US workers was still 194 billion hours. What this means, is that
despite productivity growing drastically, thousands of new
businesses opening up, and the US population growing by over
40 million, there was no growth at all in the number
of hours worked in 15 years. At the same time, wages for
new university graduates in the US, have been declining
for the past decade, while up to 40 percent of
new graduates, are forced to take on jobs that
don’t require a degree. Productivity is separating
from human labor. The nature of innovation
in the Information Age is different from everything
we’ve encountered before. This process started years ago
and is already well underway. Even without new disruptions like
self-driving cars, or robot accountants. It looks like
automation is different this time. This time, the machines
might really take our jobs. Our economies are based on
the premise that people consume. But if fewer and fewer people have decent
work, who will be doing all the consuming? Are we producing ever more cheaply
only to arrive at a point where too few people can actually buy
all our stuff and services? Or, will the future see a tiny minority of
the super rich who own the machines… dominating the rest of us? And does our future
really have to be that grim? While we were fairly dark
in this video, it’s far from certain that things
will turn out negatively. The Information Age and modern
automation, could be a huge opportunity to change human society, and reduce
poverty and inequality drastically. It could be a seminal
moment in human history. We’ll talk about this potential,
and possible solutions like a universal basic income, in
part 2 of this video series. We need to think big, and fast. Because one thing’s for
sure, the machines are not coming; They are already here. This video took us
about 900 hours to make, and we’ve been working on
it for over nine months. Projects like this one
would not be possible without your support
on If you want to help us
out and get a personal Kurzgesagt bird in return,
that would be really useful. We based much of this video on
two very good books: and You can find links to both of them in the
video description; highly recommended! Also, we made a little robot poster. You can buy it and a lot of other
stuff in our DFTBA shop. This video is part of a larger
series about how technology is already changing and will
change human life forever. If you want to continue
watching, we have a few playlists.

100 thoughts on “The Rise of the Machines – Why Automation is Different this Time”

  1. Time for universal income? There is no reason for all the productive gains of automation to go into the hands of the super rich.

  2. What we have to do: destroy capitalism and change the stupid perception of "you have to earn what you have".
    What we'll do: live in shame for not having a job, suffer and die homeless and lonely

  3. Machines. I see no problem here.
    Let evolution take its course however A.I. on the other hand IS serious… NOOH.

  4. Andrew Yang time. the UBI will allow AI to do certain jobs that like fast food work but at the same time making more jobs in repairs and jobs that people want/need to do like cleaning up the streets and caring for loved ones

  5. 10:06
    Bird: OH GOD
    Hooman: Ooooh! Looks yummy!
    Bird: GET ME OUT OF THI—
    You looking down into the restaurant: What the hell?

  6. It almost seems as though we will need things like UBI and reduced hour work weeks to offset these things. Or, perhaps, like with most technology, maybe it's time for the human race to stop and ask how necessary it is to even do this. At what point did we start serving technology? Why bother if it doesn't improve our lives? Never heard of a person inventing the bomb specifically as a means of suicide.

  7. it took us half a month or it took us 2 weeks or it took us 800 hours or it took us 48,000 min or it took us 2 million and 880,000 seconds!

  8. Too many people do not understand the current events or economics. This video is a great example. I like many Kurzesagt videos, but they are stuck in the same idea too many people are.

    The idea that people need jobs.

    We are entering a new economy and one that many people can thrive in. One that everyone will be better off, but only if people understand it.

    Unfortunately, people are stuck in this idea of jobs going away, and others are trying to use that fear for political gains instead of learning how to exist in the new economy. Many have figured it out or learned about it in a book, or video.

    This video seems to forget the economic issues of the early 2000s. A temporary situation that is resolving itself. Jobs and income are up.

    But yes, eventually automation will take over more and more jobs, so how do we deal with this?

    Own or control automation.

    If I am self-employed, and a “robot” takes over my job, I must own that robot, or be renting it, or even get access to it free. Others have found that they can take full advantage of automation and make money with less work. Imagine selling stuff on Amazon. Amazon is paying for all the employees, robots, computers, and even optimized delivery. Over a million businesses, big and small, are taking full advantage of this, and it costs little to no money until you sell something.

    But even with little technology, you can still make money without a real job. Real estate is a great way if you know what you are doing. But people are making videos, selling a course, running web sites, building apps. Hell, people are making money playing video games.

    I am barely scratching the surface here. But many people have found that they don’t need to make a full income from their side “hustle” or side business. Some have built many sources of income, each one not enough to live on, but put together provides a decent income.

    And while all this is happening, technology will make things better, cheaper, and more abundant.

    Kurzesagt should understand this stuff since they are there making videos and getting support through donations and advertisements.

    But still want a job? Right now there are thousands if not millions of jobs available that people are not trained to do, and I am talking a trade school 2-year degree to get. One of those is truck driving. 10 weeks of training. Yes everyone says that self-driving cars will take over the trucking industry, but not anytime soon, and it will be done with the truck drivers becoming the “pilots” as opposed to just dumping them. Just like planes can take off, fly, and land without pilots, but they still have humans behind the controls.

    Oh and 2000 – 2015 is not a good comparison for what’s going on. 2 recessions, and an attack on the US. I could mention the mistakes made before and during those years by the government. (Plenty of blame to go around, and not just on the Presidents.)

  9. "We are but a collection of button-pushing monkeys, progressively working toward creating our own version of God."
    I understand the benefits/disadvantages of progressing AI. Things will get worse regarding work for a lot of people, before it gets better.
    That's just my assumption based on how slow government is to meeting current and sometimes urgent needs.
    Maybe we're working towards a world in which the monetary system will have very little value in itself.
    That's my hope anyway. A little Utopian, but it has potential.

  10. Firstly we lost Steve Jobs
    Now it's time to loose our jobs 🙁 😰
    I've grown up watching The Terminator, i was always fascinated by imagining how cool it would be if robots were all around us… Turns out, we became the criminal victim of our own creation. We need to stop this. Robots should be banned, from manual workplaces.

  11. An idea, maybe a solution, but an early one and certainly a work in progress:

    Automation opens the door to a previously unimaginable world of human existence, devoid of such things as classicism and wealth gaps.
    Well, let's get the poetic rambling out of the way. As much as the above might be true, it'd be only a side effect of the grander reality created. With automaton dealing with all of our needs, we could almost completely rely upon these machines and thrive in paradise. We could plug ourselves into a matrix of a sort and enjoy simulations and video games at our leisure, while leaving the option available to exit and re-enter as we pleased. Our physical bodies could be sustained and perhaps even enhanced as we spend our time in true VR, using them if we wanted to return to life for any purpose or pleasure that struck our fancy. As this happens, we could have another option left available to us; the option to live outside of "TVR" as we wanted. This would leave scientists and innovators capable of pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and techno-prowess with the comfort of doing it in real life. This comfort of real life will be essential to those who may experience a sort of "Virtual Claustrophobia" and for those who would rather opt-out of the experience of VR and automation all-together.
    It wouldn't need to be mandatory for everyone to embrace this life-style, and regions may be assigned to each type of civilization. Those encased in this Auto-TVR society may also be taught thoroughly all sorts of skills necessary to survive without this sort of civilization to deal with any concerns of living without one day due to calamity.
    so, what all would be needed for this sort of society to exist? Well, I'll start with the obvious piece of the puzzle: Automation.
    Automation will need to be developed to such a level of sophistication and self reliance on both the hardware and software levels that it could truly run independent of humans while still accepting input and change when desired or necessary. The concern today is that this sort of thing is already on the way, and we aren't ready to handle it when it arrives. This society would welcome it and thrive off of it, so the first piece is taken care of with patience and innovation as is.
    I suppose the same could be said for the rest of the items on our "progress shopping list", like the very next item: "Mind-Machine links"
    This is another technology believed to be on the way already, and organizations like "NeuraLink" are hard at work trying to make it a reality(insert cute cat girls here). This piece is very important if we want everyone to enjoy their reality in the aforementioned TVR, as it would be resource efficient to enjoy the many pleasures in life such as food, drink, thrill and more in a virtual world than in reality. In TVR, you need only send information to the brain that overrides real stimulus to trick your brain into thinking it is experiencing something it's not.
    While this happens, your body can be sustained with real and carefully measured nutrient intake by the next important item on this list of ours: Life-support Pods.
    Not much need be said about these here, but in planning and design thorough discussions must be held to decide how best to accomplish the technology that will keep you alive. These pods will need to monitor your body and brain to precisely—–

  12. I'd argue the internet makes enough jobs but it doesnt make careers.. there are tons of jobs u can find around the internet to make money

  13. 1:35 you have to remember that at the start of the industrial revolution, that lasted about 20 years, the mortality of workers have never been higher. So for each revolution there will be a massive period of human suffering before it gets good.

  14. Nicely done, but this and all the information collection and fine tuning depends on one key axiom.

    Nothing changes.

    My needs from Amazon will always be the same. The processes at work will never change, adapt, or be any different. Google will always be the search engine, Amazon will always be the fulfillment system.

    Trick is things change. Processes evolve to game the static systems put in place. And companies that do not have the flexibility to adapt to these changes start losing a lot of money in the cracks that humans used to spot but robots can't. And making a robot app complicated enough to spot these cracks and deal with change winds up costing more than a human anyway.

    So at best this is a very short term view, kind of like starting a cloud storage company and boasting 100% uptime because they have never had a failure. Of course not, they have been in business for a month. But as the years go on the failure rate matches the on-prem systems and the cost of the cloud solution goes far higher than the on-prem system.


  15. But we create the AI to do the job in the first place so why don’t just make AI with the ability to do basic house chores instead of replacing human jobs

  16. Wait… so it's not (just) that the American economy has arbitrarily decided that millenials don't deserve liveable wage jobs and have set up reverse age discrimination (it's only illegal to refuse to hire someone for being too *old*, not for being not old *enough*) to keep us condemned to menial retail positions for the rest of our lives?

  17. The innovation will lead to cheaper goods, because less workers are necessary for the same amount of goods. So people have to work less, because things will be cheaper by innovation.

  18. I have a solution.. We will get to a point where almost nobody has jobs and a few super rich just have many machines working for them. What if everybody owned a machine or 2 that worked for them and companies paid the individual owners of the machines. This way nobody would have jobs but everybody would have a machine making them money. An example of this is Tesla’s plans to allow owners of automated vehicles to use them as automated taxis when not in use.

  19. YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020 YANG 2020

  20. Very complex and interesting topic. I don't understand why machines progress is mixed with AI integration. AI is not necessary to enhance the process, at least not directly if we want too. I mean there still can be humans working and researching at making all of this better.
    Work is basically a malediction if I refer to Bible and everydays life, since it is necessary to have a way to sustain yourself. So developing machines to make the dirty job and all jobs is a good thing. Not working doesn't mean we only spend our time at eating, or it would mean that people consider themselves not better than cows… There is so much to do in life, imagine all the free time, like travel, share, read, play, create…

  21. There is no need to "create new jobs" because of population growth! It's insane to think like that.

    What we REALLY need is to get rid of fiat currency, income and the whole financial system. Basically, let's just kill money and capitalism. Much better.

    A Resource-Based Economy is the way to go!

  22. You know the thought of flying cars.If we were flying in the car and ran out of gas we would fall and die right. So if we invent flying cars the will be more car accidents right?Just a thought.

  23. What if we encourage people to have even fewer kids? If our population decreased, wouldn't we still be producing enough to comfortably care for the elderly while our society adjusts?

  24. Even with the immense jump of productivity per capita enabled by the industrial age, you still had horrifying misery, poverty and starvation killing millions in places where governments grew so large and authoritarian that they took over all private enterprise and the entire market.

    No matter the immensely beneficial technology, incompetence, petty near sighted greed and sheer drive for more power can negate the benefits of said technology. If we don't learn from history, we will repeat it, just will really cool gadgets lying around this time.

  25. Issac Arthur made a video about this. I think it was called post consumerism. No wait it was post scarcity

  26. Me a person that lives in apartment and works at the fields. No robot has taken my job yet well that’s good so far.

  27. I absolutely love the animation, it's simple yet complex. It's drab but beautiful. The topic and information are delivered in such a delicious and 100 percent original package. I can literally start watching your channel and 0600 and easily watch into the early morning hours. I give your channel a 50 out of ten. God bless you for everything you do. Knowledge is truly power…

  28. God, there are so many naive people in this comment section, talking about going to mars (No), exploring the ocean: you don't need to see to know if there is something there or not. and BS like that Its also not machines taking over our jobs it is them preventing new jobs, we are growing too fast.

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